British sailors closed out two podium finishes on the first day of World Cup medal race action in Hyeres, France, on Saturday (29 April).
Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell held on tightly to the silver spot going in to the men’s 49er finale to secure a third straight podium result of 2017, while Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey signalled their intent in the 49erFX fleet with bronze and a maiden medal-winning performance for the new pairing.
The French Riviera venue served up perfect conditions for the first of the event’s two medal race days, with bright sunshine and winds averaging 15 knots providing the ideal playground.
Fletcher and Bithell’s 49er final was the first in the schedule, with the duo looking to bounce back from a disappointing penultimate day where gold had slipped from their grasp at the hands of Spanish crew Diego Botin-Iago Lopez.
With silver, bronze or nothing at stake and three boats in the mix for the remaining podium spots, the British pairing got off to a great start to their medal race, as did teammates James Peters-Fynn Sterritt, and took control.
The Argentinian Lange brothers, who had been in contention for the medals, conceded a penalty early on, leaving Fletcher and Bithell with just the Swedish crew Carl Sylvan-Marcus Anjemark to keep an eye on. A third place in the medal race to the Swede’s sixth was enough for them to wrap up the second step of the podium.
Peters and Sterritt finished ahead of their teammates in second in the medal race to move up to fifth overall.
“We executed a nice aggressive start and got ourselves just in front of the guys we needed to beat,” Bithell recalled.
“After that it was about keeping an eye on them and staying in front of them and the finish line. Good execution and we’re happy.”
“We were disappointed with yesterday to be honest,” continued Bithell. “We had a really solid week until then and just didn’t quite get it together in conditions we’re usually quite good in.
“But that was yesterday and today there were only options for silver and we went and got that.”
“To come away with three different colour medals is a hugely positive start to our campaign,” Fletcher added.
“We’ve still got stacks to learn – we’re making lots of mistakes like yesterday, which was unusual for us. It’s the first time we’ve actually had to execute something in the medal race so it was really nice to get that under our belt and come away with a silver medal.”
In the women’s 49erFX event, Dobson and Tidey had a 17-point cushion to fourth heading in to the final race, with a tricky ten-point gap to the German team of Victoria Jurczok-Anika Lorenz in silver position to try and make up.
The British pair sailed a solid medal race to finish fourth on the water, but with the German crew finishing just ahead of them in third, their overnight positions stand and they take home bronze, a first podium result and huge confidence in their early progress as a team.
Brazilian Olympic Champions Martine Grael-Kahena Kunze claimed gold.
“It’s just amazing,” said a delighted Dobson afterwards. “A bronze medal is fantastic but I think probably the best bit is that there were some glimmers of some real gold medal stuff throughout the week.
“Today to be able to go out and deliver the plan that we said we were going to do and deliver the strategy that we wanted to in a really calm, easy kind of way is really, really good news for the rest of the cycle.
“A bronze medal is really, really fantastic because it’s a result that says that, but I think it’s the belief that this week has given us both that we’re in it to win it.”
“We went out there and tried to attack the racing today, and tried to sail sensibly,” Tidey explained of their gameplan going in to the race.
“We’re still learning, so [we tried to] learn from it as well and manage the conditions we had. We were quite close into the wall so we had quite a bit of chop, which is always tricky in a 49er so it was about keeping the stick in the sky and keep it fast and lit round the course!”
In the RS:X women’s windsurfing final, Izzy Hamilton couldn’t quite bridge the gap to third place from her overnight position of fourth. The Bude sailor consolidated fourth place with sixth in the medal race, with teammate Emma Wilson finishing seventh in the race and seventh overall.
Three British boats battled it out in the Nacra 17 finale, finishing fourth, fifth and sixth overall. John Gimson-Anna Burnet were fastest on the water today, finishing second in the race to improve to sixth overall, while Ben Saxton-Steph Orton’s medal race third saw them leapfrog Tom Phipps-Nikki Boniface to fourth in the final standings.
Elsewhere, the British Sailing Team qualified six boats in medal race berths for Sunday’s finals in the Finn, Laser, Laser Radial and 470 Women’s events.
A race win and a seventh on Saturday sees Ed Wright head in to the Finn finale in bronze medal position, while Ben Cornish also made the cut in seventh place.
470 Women’s pairing Amy Seabright and Anna Carpenter picked up two second places in what Carpenter described as ‘glamour’ conditions to break into the bronze position just ahead of the medal race.
Gold is all but guaranteed to the Dutch duo Afrodite Zegers-Annaloes van Veen, but with a six point margin ahead of the British duo and a four point gap behind them to fourth the medal decider will be an exciting affair.
“It’s all to play for tomorrow,” said Carpenter. “I think it will probably just be about sailing fast to be honest.
“I think the conditions are going to be fairly similar to today, so I don’t think we’ll be trying anything too clever, just sailing our fastest and our best and we’ll see what we can do.”
Alison Young will also be in a battle for bronze in the Laser Radial event. The reigning World Champion is up to fourth after a solid 2,3 from her final two fleet races, with just a point to the Italian sailor in third, a French sailor level on points with her and a Polish sailor just five points further back.
Nick Thompson will attempt to make up the 11 point gap from fourth to bronze in the Laser event where he and Elliot Hanson, in eighth, will feature for Great Britain in Sunday’s medal race.
Medal racing on Sunday is scheduled as follows:
Laser – 1205 (warning signal)
Laser Radial – 1250
Finn – 1335
470 Men – 1420
470 Women – 1505
Full regatta results from round two of the 2017 World Cup Series in Hyeres, France.
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